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Friday, 2 July 1920

Mr HUGHES - Following on Mr. Watt's cablegram, which ended with a definite intimation that he resigned, and in which he asked me to place his resignation in the hands of His Excellency the Governor-General forthwith, I sent the following message : -

Personal and secret. Your telegram reached me yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, press received cable message from London announcing resignation, and giving reasons therefor. I have summoned Cabinet for earliest possible date. Ministers scattered all over continent. We meet next Tuesday in Sydney. Meanwhile, may I ask you not to give anything further to the press ? I shall decline say one word. In haste.

To this I received from Mr.Watt the following reply: -

Your telegram 10th June received. As I am not a member of the Government now, I am not concerned about the meetings of Cabinet.

On Monday, 7th June, I telegraphed you my resignation, and asked you to forward it to the Governor-General forthwith. As you have apparently not done so, I have sent it to-day direct to His Excellency.

I note that you urge me to press silence. Since first announcement I have abstained, but cable reports utterances in Australia by some of your colleagues.

On 15th June I sent the following cablegram to Mr. Watt : -

Cabinet met to-day; all members present. After full discussion, Cabinet decided no course open but to accept your resignation. I therefore communicated with His Excellency, intimating that you had resigned, and recommended that he accept your resignation, which he has done.

This completes the cable communications that have passed between Mr. Watt and myself, and covers also all those references that have been made to the British Government in relation to the matters concerning his mission. I invite honorable members and the citizens of the Commonwealth carefully to peruse the communications sent by mo to Mr. Watt. I ask honorable members to note particularly not only the matter of those cables, but the tone of them. 1 ask any honorable member here, and I ask any citizen of the Commonwealth, whether he or she sees anything in them at which a reasonable person could take offence? I say unhesitatingly that the tone of those cables leaves nothing to be desired. They are obviously not conciliatory cables sent in the face of some provocation to the contrary, for many of Mr. Watt's cables to me were peremptory in tone. They are cables sent with a desire to remove all reasons for complaint, and to assist Mr. Watt in his mission. I ask every honorable member to contrast the tone of my cables to Mr. Watt on this mission of his to London with the tone of the cables he sent to me while I was acting as representative of the Commonwealth at the Peace Conference and on the Imperial Cabinet in 1918 and 1919. I invite all honorable members to note that the principle of consultation with the Cabinet, and acceptance by the plenipotentiary or representative of the Government abroad of the decisions of the Cabinet in Australia, has been well established and definitely settled. In order to show to what extent this has gone, I shall read two or three cables, extracts from some of which I have already given, in proof of my contention : -

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